With thanks to the excellent team at Holy Ground, Exeter for showing this video recently, and Fr. Simon Rundell SCP for providing it, and of course Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber for writing it in her book ‘Accidental Saints’. This has the aroma of Jesus all over it.
Over the years I have mentored and counselled many young men and older-to-middle-aged men on the addictions they have regarding internet pornography. I am convinced this has to be at the centre of all discipleship discussions and in no way shirked by ministers and anyone in leadership responsibility.
In every case I have assumed it is happening in the lives of these men and I have never been wrong (in this at least)! The prevalence of shame and guilt linked to this addiction is destroying not just marriages and relationships, but people as individuals.
Pornography is the ultimate locust plague and the newest form of the Golden Calf; the ultimate consumerist need; a dehumanising consumption of humanity – by humanity – on a scale hitherto unknown.
It presents itself as something good, something delicious, but it is not; it may look like a nice cake but it is horse manure wrapped in icing that is laced with despair and brokennness.
Yes I know pornography is as old as the skies. Yes I know the complexities of the nature-nurture debates and the desire-affections debates and the secret Victorian obsessions and the Canaanite fertility symbols that demonstrate in one way or another this is not new: mankind is obsessed with sex. But what we face today as a “postmodern” people in a global world is new. Something has shifted, and the statistics below merely highlight the beginnings of this new-(but old)-world-order.
We are now beyond the territory of the erotic (marital) sex of the Song of Solomon, and we have walked blindfolded into the horror show of Ezekiel 16 and 23. Some may say that since this blog is a Christian blog, that I am some sort of lemon-sucking prude, a proper Victorian anti-sex Puritan. Well I’m not. The statistics below (from but one country) will contain the detail of what and why I am against this vile trade in people who are made in the image of God.
The Guardian online recently published an excellent article by Laura Bates entitled ‘Rape is not a punchline or a way to sell Christmas presents‘. She writes,
“In fact, there is evidence of some links between the portrayal of women as sexual objects and attitudes that underpin violence against women and girls. The government-commissioned Sexualisation of Young People review found evidence to suggest a clear link between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviours as the norm. And the 2010 report by the American Psychological Association on the Sexualisation of Girls detailed links between sexually objectifying images of women and girls in mainstream media and significantly higher levels of acceptance of rape myths, victim-blaming, sexual harassment and interpersonal violence.”
I find it astonishing we need government-commissioned reviews to reach this plainly obvious conclusion. This runs in tandem with the idiotic advertising strategies of various corporations around the world to suggest and insinuate rape and abuse of women in order to sell their grubby wares! It should take more than public shock and complaint to realise this; or is the saturation of our minds by advertising companies now so dense that enticements to rape and abuse are the thing that will keep our economies strong? In fact, “woe to you” if that’s what it takes to run a business in profit, and maintain a strong economy.
BTW, this post is not about anyone’s right “to do what they want” or whatever narcissistic neo-liberal construct of society you choose to adopt (as though anything one individual does is completely independent of anything and everyone around them (whether you are a Christian or not) – what nonsense)! It is simply about the fallout from this industry that is destroying real lives on an industrial scale.
The following is a great list to work through with a young in the faith believer; and more to the point, a reminder to the not-so-young in the faith to remember the things that must not be forgotten!
No one’s perfect, that’s why we have grace. And grace is the dynamic aspect that fuels our confession when we fail, which we do, often. But God in Christ has found a way; a way to Him and a way to live – in truth, life and love!
Grace all the way (although not sure I agree/understand number 37 – and I’m not being ironic)! Enjoy…
55 Maxims for Christian Living
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
1. Be always with Christ.
2. Pray as you can, not as you want.
3. Have a keepable rule of prayer that you do by discipline.
4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times a day.
5. Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.
6. Make some prostrations when you pray.
7. Eat good foods in moderation.
8. Keep the Church’s fasting rules.
9. Spend some time in silence every day.
10. Do acts of mercy in secret.
11. Go to liturgical services regularly
12. Go to confession and communion regularly.
13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start.
14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings regularly to a trusted person.
15. Read the scriptures regularly.
16. Read good books a little at a time.
17. Cultivate communion with the saints.
18. Be an ordinary person.
19. Be polite with everyone.
20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
22. Exercise regularly.
23. Live a day, and a part of a day, at a time.
24. Be totally honest, first of all, with yourself.
25. Be faithful in little things.
26. Do your work, and then forget it.
27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
28. Face reality.
29. Be grateful in all things.
30. Be cheerful.
31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
32. Never bring attention to yourself.
33. Listen when people talk to you.
34. Be awake and be attentive.
35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
36. When we speak, speak simply, clearly, firmly and directly.
37. Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out.
38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
39. Don’t complain, mumble, murmur or whine.
40. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
41. Don’t seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.
42. We don’t judge anyone for anything.
43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
44. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
45. Be defined and bound by God alone.
46. Accept criticism gratefully but test it critically.
47. Give advice to others only when asked or obligated to do so.
48. Do nothing for anyone that they can and should do for themselves.
49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.
51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
52. Focus exclusively on God and light, not on sin and darkness.
53. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.
54. When we fall, get up immediately and start over.
55. Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.
History is always told from a certain angle or perspective. We’re told that history is written by the winners; and that the only thing we ever learn from history is that we never learn from history or that we are condemned to repeat the history we do not know! Even good history is offered from a particular perspective, no less than a good map is produced from a certain angle for a particular reason.
Rowan Williams writes, “Good history makes us think again about the definition of things we thought we understood pretty well, because it engages not just with what is familiar but with what is strange. It recognises that “the past is a foreign country” as well as being our past.”
In the context of “truth”, history can be told from multiple angles, and seeming opposites. “Well they can’t both be true!” Yes they can. I recently discovered my notes taken from an unknown place and time given by Bible scholar D. A. Carson. He spoke of the same [American] history being told in two different ways, both accurate, both true, both very different!
“Although it is commonplace in some circles to talk about “inviting Jesus into your life”, it is more appropriate to turn the invitation around the other way because, in fact, it is Jesus who invites us into his life.
The essence of the Incarnation is that Jesus has entered into solidarity with humankind in ways which may be ontologically mysterious but which are existentially compelling. As our brother, He has entered fully into our humanity – He needs no invitation into our lives because He is already in intimate solidarity with us.
But it is a solidarity which is not invasive or imposed. Rather, it invites us to respond in the same way a guest responds to an invitation with a clear sense that what is being accepted or rerjected is a gift which is simply waiting to be claimed.
It is rather like the gift which we are told simply awaits our collection in the latest Reader’s Digest draw – but in relation to God’s grace the gift is real, really worth having and waiting to be claimed by everyone and not just the lucky few!”
John Saxbee, No Faith in religion, p.91
“The people encountered in pastoral ministry today are sinners.
But they don’t look like it, and many of them don’t even act like it.
They rather look and act and feel like the youth they admire so much, struggling for “identity” and searching for “integrity.”
A quick theological eye that is able to pick up the movements of sin hiding behind these seemingly innocent characteristics will keep a pastor on track, doing what he or she was called to do:
sharing a ministry of grace and forgiveness centred in Jesus Christ.”
Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.128
If we referred to the Church as a collection of broken and battered sticks from everywhere and no where,
that would be a pretty good description of what it means to be part of God’s family.
What joy you gave, from pain so deep;
A miracle in progress, a work of art!
Flesh of my flesh, not quite but still,
You may as well have been.
Goodbye my boy!
* * *
Sometimes a year comes and goes,
Lost to the mists of time, forgetful minds and ordinary lives.
But 2014 will always be,
Etched in the mind, carved in the heart!
The year we met you, unforgetable.
Goodbye my boy!